Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Whole God Issue So Far




The Third Frontier

Metatheoretic Atheism

The third frontier in analyzing universal claims consists of two completely new arguments for atheism. Both of these arguments are metatheoretic. They can also be called meta-philosophical, meta-scientific, meta-logical, or even meta-rational arguments. They are:

1. The Prior Moral Criterion Argument

and it's logically parallel generalization:

2. The Prior Truth Criterion Argument*

They are both necessarily based on and directly inferred by the concepts of argumentation, logic, and general rationality themselves, especially the notion of universal prior principles, standards, and criteria deductively supervising all thought and argumentation and all morality, moral theorizing, and value preferencing.

And they both preclude and determine the entire God debate.

Consequently—precisely because of the universality of those governing principles—these two arguments are both logically and metatheoretically deductive, decisive, and final.

That's a first for atheism.

And for all appearances, that is a fatal 1-2 punch. Two positive deductive arguments that operate in tandem** because they have the same formal logical structure.

But equally important is the fact that they are metatheoretic. They are based on what we are already assuming in theorizing about God or the total reality in the first place. "It's just X" reductions don't get a pass either, because any arguments for such reductions assume a higher cognitive authority than themselves, which is the whole point of these two arguments.

Here's the Prior Moral Criterion Argument:

1. Any moral argument for God's goodness already assumes a fully-operating prior ultimate God-precluding moral good as a standard that must be used to identify what any moral argument for God is trying to prove and adjudicate any such argument.

Therefore, there is no God and any moral argument for God is necessarily based on an atheistic moral good. Any moral argument for God already requires atheistic assumptions and criteria.

That's it. Two ways of saying it, but it's a simple universal deductive argumen
t about all possible moral theorizing including itself.

And here's the analogous but far more powerful Prior Truth Criterion Argument:

1. The pr
ior standards of analysis already preclude God as any kind of relevant factor in deciding what is true about the issue of God's existence.

Therefore, there is no God and any argument for God is based on atheism.

Yet another single-statement universal deductive argument and its conclusion.

And an independent, God-precluding prior standard for what is moral or good, and more importantly for what is true, is necessarily atheism.

So to enter into the discussion at all is to already accept the clearly positive and logically parallel atheistic standards of a logically and existentially independent (Godless) truth-indicating rational system as obligating all minds to believe various claims and assumptions in order to survive and flourish in relation to a good in any sense.

And while those factors themselves are at first glance simply fatal to belief in God, belief in God already requires and logically depends on those standards of general rationality, and on belief in those standards, even to merely make sense of the concept of God itself.

These two new arguments for atheism will elevate the public intellectual profile of atheism and drastically increase the sheer number of atheists worldwide.

It hasn't even begun. Yet. The question of why belief in God must be rational in the first place is going to be what atheists will use to transition to these two prior standards arguments I've developed from Nielsen. The New Atheism is nothing compared to what's coming.

Here is the argument that started it all, the Prior Moral Criterion Argument by Kai Nielsen:

1. Appealing to belief-deciding reasons is using a prior criterion for moral belief, a criterion that is not based on or affected in any way by there being a God or not.

2. And that prior standard has a higher authority than God and necessarily precludes God as a relevant factor in deciding the issue. It's already in a position of authority over what can be true about God including existence.

Is there some moral obligation to pay attention to moral theorizing in the first place? Is there any moral obligation to operate on basing relations for inferred claims? Without an obligation to base anything on anything, this too can just be morally and ethically ignored. Objective moral reasoning cannot be deduced from anything, since one would have to first observe a moral obligation in order to value that deductive process itself. And to try to logically justify logic is to already assume that logic in that justifying process itself, which is what that argument is claimed to justify.

The only way to argue for the ultimacy, adequacy, etc. of reason and logic is to argue for the necessity of the grasp of them as part of a comprehensive system that leaves out no claim that cannot be questioned, doubted, or even thought about at all without being assumed in the process. That's the irreducibly basic equivalence class that this entire inquiry necessarily assumes already.

The new atheism of 2004 through the present is almost exclusively based on “old-school” atheism from writings dating from Bertrand Russell until those of George Smith and Peter Angeles, maybe with a few more recent atheist authors’ writings from them until Sam Harris’s ingenious work, The End of Faith (although it too is lacking in anything new against belief in God).

And of course compounding the new atheism’s problems has been its attitude problem. Juvenile insults and caricatures continue to be common among them. As Roy Varghese has concisely put it, those who complain about the Inquisition and witches being burned at the stake seem to enjoy hunting heretics themselves. But tolerance advocates have never been very tolerant. Religious zealots haven’t quite monopolized dogmatism, incivility, fanaticism, and paranoia.

But fortunately for everyone involved in the debate, these two new arguments for atheism get beyond all that. And they will be evangelized by younger and younger people because of their relative simplicity, especially as these new arguments are distilled into simplified rhetoric for the general public and smoothly connected to the notion of standards in daily life and technology.

The question of how we know a school ruler is accurate is going to be one of the main analogies leading to the conclusion that God needs reason to even make sense as a concept, but reason doesn't need God at all, and yet reason must be used with ultimate authority for all questions, issues, and problems, including questions about the existence of God itself and reason’s objective decisiveness in practical as well as theoretic issues.

In other words, in the order of logically justifying anything as being true, and thereby being able to believe it to be true, reason doesn’t need God for anything. (The simple but surprising reason for why this argument is actually the opposite of what it attempts to conclude is the Fourth Frontier. But that’s getting ahead.)

These two new arguments for atheism eliminate many typical sources of hostility and ill will between believers and nonbelievers, concerning the permanently-obsolete traditional public-proof arguments about the existence of God--both for and against--while narrowing the issue to more naturally civil issues, simpler, more focused, easier to understand, and with essential core assumptions necessarily and consciously in common.

Whether you argue for or against the existence of god, all previous arguments on all sides of the issue are now logically preempted, logically superfluous, logically irrelevant, and therefore obsolete because of these two arguments involving the standards that already rule the entire analysis of the issue before that analysis even begins.

Any objection to this must assume that same system of standards as the ultimate criteria of all thought. To say anything requires connecting subjects with predicates according to a system of fixed definitions, basic concepts, relations, linguistic rules, procedures, purposes, meanings, and values. And every individual statement assumes some general theory.

To say anything implies that we know at least some truth, because any position about anything assumes some knowledge of background supervisory standards (among other things), even if a person is unaware of them. A person’s questions about causation, justification, meaning, value, and purpose clearly reveal this easily constructed procedure of proof and justification.

So what no one on any side of the God debate talks about is that there is an independent already-operating moral system of supervisory standards necessarily assumed in thinking about anything good, whether an ultimate perfect goodness or just any good at all beyond merely liking something. A transpersonal goodness, whether it's somehow embodied or instanced in some kind of sentient being or not.

But why stop at morality and ethics? Why stop at obligation and the good? What are the standards for thinking or believing that anything is true or false about anything? And what standards do we use in relying on those standards of thinking themselves? What are the standards for those standards? And what is their own justification if they are already themselves the standards of all possible logical justification? But there cannot even be a technical fallacy due to what the notion of fallacy itself merely assumes and exempts.

No standards are needed if they are themselves already in question concerning the justification of their status as standards. And to question them is to assume them as universal standards of inquiry, a system of standards of all possible analysis including the assuming and using of those standards themselves.

That's the only way we have for recognizing errors, by the way.

Reasoning to justify reason would be (and in a sense is) ordinarily a fallacy according to first-order logic itself, which is a core aspect of general reason. But there can be no fallacy without assuming standards of general or universal rationality for what is a properly held belief. Any questioning of the logical justification of the standards of logical justification themselves necessarily assumes those same standards and their ultimate authority for deciding what to believe, because that questioning is itself a request for logical justification according to those same logical justification standards. A rather glaring inescapability.

Someone says we can't logically prove the merits of logic through logic itself. We are thus forced to accept logic on an assumption that it is is true, and that it works.

But that claim alleges the existence of a flaw that itself has no meaning outside of logic processing. The only way to prove or try to disprove logic is through logic, but it cannot be done appealing only to logic but appealing to the entire set of values, obligations, general rules of rationality, and self-interest.

And to ask why the merits of logic must be proved in the first place is to ask for a proof.

Being forced to be decisive is necessity, but it only applies to what cannot be denied or even thought about without being assumed in the process. It's an equivalence class of definitions and rules of logic, language, and even empirical data with regard to the mundane conditions of possible inquiry in an empirical world.

Objections to these arguments can arise only if the standards of rationality already have the ultimate authority in question. So pointing out any logical or rational deficiencies in reason necessarily depends itself on that same system of general reason in order to have any legitimacy as a criticism of reason. And that implies in turn that there can be no legitimate criticism of reason on pain of self-referring inconsistency other than pointing out the consequences of that error.

So the core mistake in questioning the logical status of reason and logic themselves, is that in that questioning itself---and in any allegation of a flaw in metatheoretic or dialectical reasoning for the ultimate status of reason---it’s ultimacy is already required in order to level any objection against it to begin with. Objections proceed only from the nature and standards of reason itself.

Those transcendental standards of reason enable us to determine in a logically prior way, before all experience, certain truths about all possible objects and how we must deal with them.

Reason and logic must be assumed logically basic to everything in the first place. That exempts them from the need, the necessity, and even the possibility and desirability of purely logical justification in the same way as non-logically-basic claims and assumptions. The fact that they are logically basic means that there are no logically deeper levels of logical justification possible than them.

They are not self-justifying in the purely logical sense. That’s impossible. And it’s a mistake in logic. They are only metatheoretically justifiable both logically and experientially. Otherwise, there would be a vicious regress instead of an irreducibly basic necessarily-assumed system of procedures and assumptions for determining what is true or false, and which repeats when any supervisory claim is analyzed about that system of reason itself.

So reason and logic are not exempted from some kind of justification, but they are necessarily self-exempted from first-order linear logical justification due to how they are defined as the logically primitive system of all thinking in the first place.

They are rock-bottom logically basic already, which means that there is no possibility of anything more logically basic to how those principles themselves are initially defined and justified. There’s more to justification at the level of the most logically basic assumptions, than meets the purely logical eye, especially when the logical eye itself is part of what is in question anyway.

But even that justification, a more comprehensive meta-logical and even meta-rational justification, must itself proceed according to that same system of general standards of rationality or reason. It simply takes into account more truth-determining factors than logic since logic itself is in question. There’s far more than logic to the justification of logic itself as an instrument necessarily used to decide what is true or false.

So the more general argument for atheism is for a logically and experientially necessary independent prior standard that covers all our thinking about all truth claims.

Unless one is willing to accept reason’s system of rules, and use that system with greater logical authority than the inferences it generates, and the objects it might infer, no justification of any claim is possible and no inference to any conclusion can ever occur. There is no way to avoid thinking according to those rules.

And not only does using reason limitlessly not require belief in God, it makes the discussion of any question possible in the first place. All logically possible arguments for the existence of God, are necessarily based on atheistic standards, standards that do not themselves require belief in God, yet are used with ultimate authority as the rules for analyzing and deciding whether or not God exists.

Belief in god logically requires belief in reason, but belief in reason does not logically require belief in God, and even precludes the whole issue of God in determining what is true. Therefore, atheism wins by God-preluding prior logical and experiential default, and any argument for the existence of God is necessarily based on atheism.


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The Fourth Frontier

Metatheoretic Belief In God


The belief-determining authority of the standards of analysis is already God-level. The governing of the mental by those standards solves the problem of divine personhood. Again, what precisely is a person is already implicit in the questioning of it and merely needs to be inventoried and specified. Reason's governing the mind is a severe problem for atheism, and reveals its theism of reason as Invisible Cognitive Guide, immune to everything. And that's what transcendence means, existing above everything, affected by nothing.

The fourth frontier in analyzing universal claims is that those two new deductive arguments for atheism are successful as far as they go in terms of their explicit operational analysis, but that process itself is a Trojan horse containing a cryptic belief in God. In fact, the horse itself is the problem. Using those arguments, atheism has unwittingly proved the existence of God with metatheoretic finality. It has ignored what reason assumes and what reason implies in how it functions--and must function--in relation to the mind.

Both logically and existentially, there is simply nowhere else to go.

This may be the key to the incorrigible evasiveness of science as well as philosophy concerning the reflexive or metatheoretic assumptions and implications in the analysis of universals.

To wit: what have academics and scientists not questioned? What are they now not questioning? Why do the trans-theoretic or metatheoretic standards of human thinking get exempted from scrutiny? Why is logic never taught to children even though it's no more complicated than elementary arithmetic?

And evaluative standards are used for everything, because they are a set of universal principles. So why aren't they used to scrutinize themselves?

The pervasive dismissiveness and evasions of academia won't make this problem go away. A swimming pool won't make your children or grandchildren stop thinking you're a clueless moron even if they start visiting more often because of it.

The main point arising out of the new prior-standards-arguments atheism will be that a rational perspective necessarily precludes the existence of God as a factor in deciding what's true, and therefore the logical starting point of any rational view is necessarily atheistic.

So procedurally, atheism is a legitimate initial given in thought, even if God exists. Carrying out a complete basic assumption/implication inventory is the only thing that could possibly reveal a Logos-like theistic system entity anyway. The very idea of God requires a constructed system of basic universals as its legitimacy and justification, and a complete inventory of those universal claims as cognitive operating system in turn constitute the ultimate being in question. To deny their effect on mind in theistic ways is to assume that same effect in the process.

And where is the scientific verification and documentation for all of this?

But the more glaring problem for rationalistic atheism is the necessary crypto-theism of reason. What are the background standards that govern the discussion of the issue, what are their assumptions, and what are their implications?

The most logically basic standards of thought are atheist in the sense that one does not have to believe in God in order to use those standards of rational thinking limitlessly and with ultimate authority for deciding what to believe.

But they necessarily function thereby as a Mind-God, The God of Thought, a Logos. A God of Mind. And the mind determines what's real in all senses. The most logically basic standards of thought as a system, are necessarily identical to essential core characteristics of an ultimate mind or God. In fact, when analyzed closely, that system turns out, in its assumptions as well as its implications, to be indistinguishable from a classical non-anthropomorphic theistic God.

That system of standards is necessarily used to decide, not just whether or not God exists, but also what it means for something to be called a person, because those standards are also the only possible standard for defining and identifying anything in the first place, including personhood. So due to their necessarily God-level authority and comprehensive functioning in relating to people’s daily lives, and even in determining what is a person, that system of standards of our thinking is a factor in knowing that is indistinguishable from core features of a personal ultimate being in the traditional belief in God. It’s necessarily The Logos, instantiated in us as the image of God in the mind.

So it’s clear that while belief in God could have, for example, originated from spontaneous inference from visible phenomena to a suspected invisible cause, when logically analyzed, the issue of the existence of God is really about personhood in relation to this ultimate notion of sentient reason as necessarily the image of God. In the logical beginning is the Logos, logically prior---and preemptively decisive over the issue of a temporal beginning.

So the response from believers in God can only be that those two new atheistic arguments, while correct in their claims about the universality, comprehensiveness, prior logical independence, ultimate authority and necessary decisiveness of the prior standards of reason, necessarily thereby treat reason as essentially indistinguishable from the classical idea of God, and that that system of standards we must use to think, does not already assume God, only certain aspects of what God must be, but that system of standards implies God because as ultimate universal standards, they themselves must be used to determine the nature of personhood and the concept and existence of God. So what is necessarily used to get to either belief in God or atheism, turns out necessarily itself to be God.

In reason, we necessarily use a set of standards as a system that fully exemplifies a god’s-eye-view of the total reality. Reject that claim, and you’re doing the exact same thing that the claim describes. Denials affirm negations.

The issue of whether or not there is a God is in the end only about personhood in relation to the ultimacy, universality, adequacy, efficacy, and influence-immune mind-supervising verification-transcendent authority of reason. And any atheism that claims to be rational is at least going to have to go to a notion of reason as a transcendent logically prior moral as well as cognitive system, like a pervasive DNA structure, already in the world, for thinking and knowing ourselves and everything else. It’s also going to have to admit that supervising the analysis of allegedly determining causes necessarily transcends those causes and physical reality in general in order to authoritatively decide their status and state other things about them, especially in relation to what is true or real or actual about them.

Otherwise, truth is just a dressed-up word for sheer physicalistic eventuation in the brain and nothing else, and the notion of truth is just a myth. That is, from the atheistic standpoint, these standards of thinking are both ultimate as the standards for deciding what to believe and morally obligating due to their abstract generality and universality of personal application, in addition to their practical necessity and benefit. In other words, reason is necessarily, in all the core essentials, indistinguishable from the classical notion of God.

So there’s the logically and experientially prior independent moral criterion for calling anything good, whether perfectly good or a trans-personal good per se.

And then there’s the generalized argument for a prior universal criterion for calling anything true or false, and without that universal standard itself requiring belief in God. That’s not just the most powerful argument for atheism to date. It’s an entirely different kind and level of argument from anything ever constructed previously for atheism. It is a transcendental metatheoretic argument, an argument about the principles of argumentation themselves.

But the believer in God must respond that the arguments are for a God of Reason, which necessarily has an ultimate authority tantamount to the authority of a classical theistic concept of God or Logos.

The greatest freedom is achieved by willing what Reason prescribes and not willing what it prohibits. And so on. And yet how can anything that is not a person have an authority for obligating persons to think according to any rules or principles?

The ultimate authority, adequacy, and efficacy of reason, the logical foundation of atheism, is indistinguishable from a classical non-anthropomorphic theistic Logos or God. So the fourth metatheoretic frontier in analyzing universal claims is that atheism necessarily assumes a mind-God entity in its own system concept of durable general rationality and in general rationality’s assumed relation to how each person’s mind is obligated to relate to that general specification of reason in just functioning as a being living in this context, just to merely survive as well as flourish. God is manifested in our awareness of moral obligation, but that’s only because moral obligation is already built into the notion of general reason, logically prior to thinking about first-order theorizing about moral obligation, and how we must act in relation to reason as a Logos, as indistinguishable from an obligation-imposing subject outside of and separate from ourselves even though it functions within us.

And for reason to be prescriptive means that it specifies obligations. Therefore, rational atheism necessarily attributes qualities of God to reason itself, and without logically prior justification of any kind for that.

Certain assumptions are logically basic standards for all our thinking. They are the standards of analysis for any possible mind including intelligent agents created through artificial intelligence programming. Therefore, these universal background standards of analysis are necessary for recognizing and knowing that certain objects of our experience are minds.

But only a mind using those standards can recognize and know whether any object is a mind, and to use those standards for that purpose is to assume that those standards have mind-obligating powers, even about how those concepts themselves are to be construed. Go through the detailed questioning process to understand this more fully. The implications of questioning it will clarify its justification. Therefore, the ultimate standards of thought are necessarily used to determine whether or not an object is a mind.

And relations between these assumptions and the objects in question (minds) are themselves objects that can be predicated only by a mind. Therefore the ultimate standards of thought are indistinguishable from an ultimate truth-determining mind, since that system of standards authorize and supervise the evaluation of all truth claims due to their necessarily-assumed truth, necessarily-assumed authority and necessarily-assumed guidance for minds according to an obligating ideal system of thinking.

Any argued denial of this, logically itself depends on those same assumptions for its own truth, meaningfulness, significance, goodness, value, relevance, and so on. Therefore, this system of assumptions of general reason necessarily decides all truth claims about everything including itself, as well as the denials of those claims and arguments against them. The system is just a list of statements that are related to each other according to those statements themselves.

Therefore, this system of assumptions is all-knowing as the truth-evaluating instrument of all possible knowledge, ultimately authoritative or sovereign as the final court of appeal, as the universally decisive inferential factor, omnipresent. As Anthony Kenny said, “The philosopher knows that reason is the sovereign of the world.” Reason is also eternal like mathematics in it’s physically and temporally universal applicability. And it is transcendent in being perfectly functional and influence-immune, and operates at the highest conceivable level of supervisory analytic authority over all issues concerning all domains of predication including issues about itself.

And these assumptions of general rationality are the specifying standards for defining everything in the first place, including minds, persons, standards, and God. And we have to refer to them because as limited beings we don’t perfectly actualize that ideal system of standards in our lives, and often even forget those standards or forget to apply them, or misapply them, even though we are called back to them, in order to recognize our defections from those standards.

Without the logically necessary God-like obligating authority of reason, neither God's existence nor anything else can be concluded. Remember that everything thought and claimed involves and assumes universals, universal claims, universal assumptions. Natural science is concerned with things in their universal aspects, as exemplifying types, and with repeatable events that exemplify laws that are universal across time and space.

So essential aspects of God's being must be assumed in whatever we use to decide whether or not God exists. And that is the central issue of both atheism and belief in God in relation to the necessity, universality, adequacy, efficacy, and ultimacy of reason. Consequently, this system of general reason or rationality, this system of necessary and logically basic assumptions is as ultimate and mind-like or person-like as any personal ultimate God is conceivable of being. There is nothing that those guiding assumptions do not already cover in our thinking about ourselves and the world. They are the image in us of a God-like mind, however imperfectly they are instantiated in us individually in our lives.

Relying on and treating this mind structure as a reality-wide guide in all our thinking is therefore unavoidably necessary, even in reasoned denials of this. To proceed in thinking at all, we must approximate whatever reason is always indicating as the perfect standard of thought that it is. To disagree with that is to do the exact same thing.

And my actions in relation to that ideal are whatever they are only when judged by that same rational standard. All criticism assumes ideal rationality. All thinking assumes ideal rationality. As Sam Harris has said, certain logical relations are etched into the very structure of the world, including being etched into us as well.

Any contemplation of these ultimate assumptions of mind such as reason, formal logic, the rule-set of an ordered context of reality, a hierarchy of values, and the obligation to proceed according to a system of rules of thinking results in an endless stream of new knowledge when applied to our ongoing experience of the world. The rules of reason are a precondition, not simply of experience but of communication and therefore of society. Consequently, these ultimate decisive rules and ideals of thought actually convey knowledge and even wisdom by merely thinking about our world of objects, our experience, our history, our belief systems, and our lives in relation to those rules and ideals of general reason.

The fact that we must refer to or assume those standards of rationality implies an equally ultimate purpose. Use the standards for what? Why use them in the first place? And an ultimate purpose necessarily depends on a hierarchical set of ultimate values. This system of assumptions is a unified instrument of thinking, which necessarily obligates, defines, and influences the mind as the ultimate operating system for thinking about anything. Consequently, all thinking necessarily both assumes and references, an already idling engine, an unchanging, and enduring supervisory system of thinking made up of prescriptive evaluative standards of thought necessarily assumed together as a system just for us to be able to think or get out of bed in the morning. It decides everything and makes inquiry itself possible.

Arguments, whether for or against the existence of God, assume a kind of reason theism, reason as supervisory God of mind, immune to influences, transcending verification, immutable, universally applicable, obligating in relation to life, inert yet belief-deciding, and so on. Arguing against this merely re-invokes it all over again. And the rationally necessary is necessarily the experientially real, because any argument denying that is self-contradictory in trying to rationally necessitate its own truth about the experientially real, namely that there can’t be any.

Reason is the only thing that can decide these matters, so if reason is not God then it's difficult to see what powers it lacks, since the knowledge of everything about God, including arguments in support of that belief that God exists, is determined completely and only by the power and authority of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, everything else follows.

Therefore, the essential properties of our own system and standards of thinking are indistinguishable from the defining essential properties of a classically construed concept of God. God is present and active through reason operating in our moment by moment thinking, among many other things and influences that reason operates in. And if two objects are indistinguishable from each other with respect to all of their essential operational properties, how are they different from each other?

The solution is always in the total structure of truth which is common to all views in spite of themselves, and regardless of what those views may claim. As Sam Harris said about differing moral codes, each competing view presumes its own universality. That includes anti-universal views such as nominalism, relativism, subjectivism, social constructionism and expressivism as well. One must be open to the world and all its possibilities. And possible questions narrow down those possibilities.

One must scrutinize all prior assumptions including one’s own and the assumptions of that questioning process itself. As Richard Rorty said, a philosophical problem is a product of the unconscious adoption of assumptions built into how the problems are stated—assumptions which are to be questioned before the problem itself can be solved, or even taken seriously.

Once again, the key question that will enable you to see the logically fatal errors in almost all popular universal claims, and get completely clear on all arguments in the God debate, both for and against, is:

How does that claim impact its own truth?

The rest is automatic.

Ad Gloriam Dei

Roger Wasson
St. Pete Beach
Sunday, February 7, 2021

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*I inadvertently discovered this argument by leaving off the word "moral" while taking notes on the above argument in Nielsen's book, Ethics Without God, (Pemberton/Prometheus, 1st ed. 1971, pages 22 ff., 2nd ed. 1990, pages 30 ff.).
**. . . and assume each other, but that is a much later story.